Meet the Artist: Claire Van Winkle

May 13, 2024

Injinji’s Artist Designed series includes socks intentionally designed by talented creatives who find inspiration in the natural world. Each pair of Artist Designed socks tells a story, tying into a theme chosen by the artist. The designs are created exclusively for Injinji, and the socks are Limited Edition – so don’t wait to stock up!

The Alaska Collection is the fourth in the Artist Designed series, created by Claire Van Winkle, a surface pattern designer, illustrator, and professional expedition guide. In this interview, Claire shares the influences behind this collection, and what inspired her adventurous designs.

Claire Van Winkle using digital tools to create the Artist Designed Men's Crew sock in Orcas.Claire Van Winkle using digital tools to create the Artist Designed Men's Crew sock in Orcas.
Artist Claire Van Winkle standing with her backpack among yellow and red plants with a mountain in the background.Artist Claire Van Winkle standing with her backpack among yellow and red plants with a mountain in the background.

Interview With The Artist: Claire Van Winkle

You chose the Alaska theme, are there specific places or memories you thought of when creating these?

Absolutely. Alaska is my playground. Everything is bigger and better here. Between the jagged peaks, the free-flowing rivers, and the megafauna, I’m constantly amazed by this wild landscape. I’ve been involved in the Alaskan tourism industry for several years now and have designed trips and guided multi-day expeditions all around the state. This collection was inspired by the places I work and play in and includes specific mountain ranges, wildlife, and experiences from my travels. For example, the Aurora design was inspired by a trip I took up to Coldfoot with my boyfriend last October and the mountain lines are taken from real ranges up here.

Can you share about your design process for this collection?

I started working on this design collection while I was driving from Colorado to Alaska to begin another summer guiding season. While driving, I had a lot of time to think about the shapes and contours of Alaska and to decide how I wanted that to be visually reflected on socks. I love Alaska for its roughness. Its wildness. Its bigness. Its do-it-yourself-ness. But in the end, I decided I wanted to highlight the movement, the joy, and the awe that is possible to experience when exploring this incredible state.

Which design from the Alaska collection is your favorite and why?

Oooh. All of them. But generally, I’m moved by mountain lines and wild, groovy shapes. My favorites are the Aurora, Orcas, and Denali designs. To me, these three designs really highlight the movement, energy, and joy of Alaska.

If you had to choose a song or album to accompany this series, which would you choose?

That’s tough. How do I pick just one? Here in Alaska, we are lucky to have many talented local bands. I’ll go with the song Wild & Free by Hope Social Club because I really adore them. I saw them in Talkeetna last weekend and couldn’t stop goofy dancing. When they play underneath the string lights, magic happens, and the joy of Alaska comes alive in the crowd.

All Artist Designed socks from the Alaska collection laid out on a wood floor.All Artist Designed socks from the Alaska collection laid out on a wood floor.

How did you get into illustration and design, and what has been the most fulfilling aspect of working as an artist?

I first started designing surface patterns over ten years ago, when I was in college. From there, I started entering weekly surface pattern competitions with a company called Spoonflower. That turned out to be a huge launching point for my designs. Since then, I’ve worked with several brands to create repeating patterns and surface designs for whiskey bottles, ski helmets, packaging, t-shirts, masks, and more. It’s been a wild ride, but one of my favorite things is seeing where my patterns end up out in the world. I had a friend call me from Jackson Hole the other day to tell me that she saw my pattern on a bandana in a local shop, and it made my day! I love seeing where my patterns end up.

What are your favorite ways to spend time outside?

I love to trail run and scramble up as high as I can on peaks. Both activities offer me a new perspective on the landscape and an opportunity to experience a true flow state.

What draws you to creating art about nature?

I think it’s important to remember that everything we have is created by nature and inspired by nature. Nature does it right. I love observing patterns in the real world and transferring them onto a piece of fabric that can highlight and celebrate their beauty.

Do you have a motto or mantra that you live by in your creative life?

You have to do interesting things in order to create interesting things.

If people would like to follow your journey, where can they find you?

Please follow along on Instagram, @clairekalinadesigns, or my website